René Meulenbroek was one of the original members of the comics group Studio Arnhem. He is also known under the pen name "Den Meul". Born in Arnhem, he spent four years at the Art Academy of Arnhem, and subsequently worked at an advertising agency for two years. He did his first artistic work alongside his friends Hanco Kolk, Ben Jansen, Aloys Oosterwijk, Rieuwert Catz and Diederick van Kleef, with whom he was responsible for the amateur comics magazine De Omelet. Seven issues appeared between 1976 and 1978; the first two were self-published, and then the printing duties were handed over to Har van Fulpen's Drukwerk. The quality of the contributors' artwork improved with every issue, and soon a new generation of artists was ready to conquer the mainstream comic publications. Meulenbroek, Jansen, Kolk and Oosterwijk, accompanied by underground artist Evert Geradts, founded Studio Arnhem in 1981. Within a short period of time, they had assignments from most of the leading publications of the time, including Donald Duck, Eppo, Robbedoes and Taptoe.
X-Ray Specs (Coyote #5, 1984)
Meulenbroek and Kolk were the driving forces behind the studio's commercial activities in its early years. Meulenbroek's ambition was to work as a collective, in the tradition of the Toonder Studios. However, the rest of the gang didn't share this vision, and the team worked on individual assignments and on an occasional group effort instead. During the early years, stories by Meulenbroek and the other group members appeared in Drukwerk publications like Talent and Coyote. When Robbedoes, the Flemish edition of the Belgian comics weekly Spirou, got its own independent Dutch section in 1983, Studio Arnhem was present with a couple of comic features. As a team, they made the series 'Ernst Vrolijk & Dik Hout', for which Meulenbroek served as creator, co-writer (with Hanco Kolk), background artist and colorist. The characters were drawn by new group member Gerard Leever. Another group production Meulenbroek participated in was the newspaper strip about photographer 'Otto Raaf', that appeared in Het Parool. Meulenbroek drew the backgrounds with Ben Jansen.
Meulenbroek also contributed to the Dutch comics magazine Eppo. He did the coloring of the early episodes of Hanco Kolk's 'Gilles de Geus' and provided the puzzle section 'Hersenschrobbers'. One of his most notable creations was the Knight's Game, that came with the magazine's thematic issue about the Middle Ages in 1982. For this production, he was the first to win the Hal Foster Award, a somewhat tongue-in-cheek prize created by Studio Arnhem for someone who has made himself useful in the "periphery of the comics industry". This challenge cup has since been awarded to artist Peter de Wit (1984), letterer Frits Jonker (2003), illustrator Pieter M. Dorrenboom (2004), graphic designer Shamrock (2005), graphic desiger Vince (2007), Lambiek's Klaas Knol (2010), publisher Mat Schifferstein (2011), distributor Ron Poland (2012) and journalist/editor Natasja van Loon (2014).
While most of his friends established themselves as the cream of comic art in The Netherlands, Meulenbroek decided to seek his luck in other fields. He left Studio Arnhem around 1986, and has since been successfully active in graphic design, advertising and desktop publishing. He has worked with a couple of agencies, most notably MUNTZ in Amersfoort. He is currently active as an independent illustrator and designer through Denmeul Illustratie in the Utrecht area. But despite his limited oeuvre in comics, René Meulenbroek was part of one of the most influential and inspirational groups of comic creators of the 1980s. In recent years, he has however begun working on a graphic novel, called 'Moortegem'.